The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

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Re: The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Jun 25, 2019 12:12 pm

Watch the universities end up teaching Giuseppe's theories as required reading ...
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Re: The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

Post by John2 » Wed Jun 26, 2019 2:32 pm

davidlau17 wrote:
To begin with, as a Jewish Pharisee who wrote derisively about all other messiah claimants, Josephus would have been unlikely to believe Jesus to be the Christ. However, even if he did come to that belief, common sense would tell us that he would dedicate a heavy portion of Antiquities to his Messiah. Instead he casually and abruptly proclaims, "He was the Christ". The Testimonium Flavianum is one of the shortest chapters in his Antiquities; it consists of a grand total of 89 words.

But messianism is a tenet of Rabbinic Judaism and presumably was in Josephus' time as well and I don't think it would be any more out of line for Josephus to say that Jesus was the Messiah than it is for him to say that Vespasian was the Messiah. Some Pharisees were Christians (like Paul and the ones in Acts 15:5) and the founder of Rabbinic Judaism said that Vespasian was the Messiah too.

So what difference does it make that Josephus says that Vespasian was the Messiah in the Jewish War (like the founder of Rabbinic Judaism) and that Jesus was the Messiah in the Antiquities (like Paul and other Pharisee Christians)? Maybe he had changed his mind who he thought the Messiah was or only calls Jesus Christ because that is what he was commonly called (cf. Tacitus Annals 15.44) and/or he no longer felt obliged to flatter Vespasian when he wrote the Antiquities (and maybe he was thus consequently down on other messianic claimants). In other words, so what if Josephus calls Jesus Christ?

And how much space does Josephus use to say that Vespasian was the Messiah? Less than the Mundus passage, and less than the Jesus passage too, and the entire section it is in (War. 6.5.4) is not much longer than the Jesus passage, so I don't see why that should matter.


War 6.5.4:
The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular, and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination. Now this oracle certainly denoted the government of Vespasian, who was appointed emperor in Judea.



Annals. 15.44:
... a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus,
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Re: The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

Post by Secret Alias » Thu Jun 27, 2019 4:42 am

I actually think that Vespasian was for Josephus the Christ because of gematria - Vespasian = 345. I think this is a convincing argument that Jesus could not have actually been considered the Christ for the same man. Gematria is as Jewish an argument as any.
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Re: The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

Post by rakovsky » Thu Jun 27, 2019 8:30 am

My personal theory is that, contra Origen, Josephus was a "low-key Christian", and that the Testimonium Flavianum was real. To answer the OP, Joshua/Jesus was a quite common name at the time (like John and James/Jim today), so the frequency of the name in Josephus didn't catch my eye. But I do think that Josephus in some cases deliberately uses the name as a cryptic reference to Jesus. He may have paid special attention to the name, being a Christian himself, and noted when figures whom he came across in the records were named "Jesus".
To give two analogies: I think that the name "Jesus Bar Rabbas" in the Gospels is a deliberate reference to Jesus and also to the Temple practice of taking two goats, sacrificing one and putting the other into the desert. That's not to say that Jesus Bar Rabbas is a made up figure by a gospel writer - maybe Pilate or others deliberately chose to use Bar Rabbas in part because of his name. In the early Christian writing Epistle of Barnabas, the author also paid special attention to a figure, Joshua, for sharing Jesus' name. The Epistle says:
What, again, says Moses to Jesus (Joshua) the son of Nave, when he gave him this name, as being a prophet, with this view only, that all the people might hear that the Father would reveal all things concerning His Son Jesus to the son of Nave? This name then being given him when he sent him to spy out the land, he said, "Take a book into your hands, and write what the Lord declares, that the Son of God will in the last days cut off from the roots all the house of Amalek."
So Joshua/"Jesus" son of Nun took a book and wrote God's own declaration directly about "the Son of God", per Moses' instructions. It was as if Joshua/"Jesus" were directly expressing God's words. That is, it were as if Joshua/"Jesus" were God speaking.

The name "Jesus"/"Joshua"/Yeshua itself could be considered a Messianic name too, since Isaiah 62:11 says:
Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation (Yesha/ישע) cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
But for this theory to work, I think that one would better accept the explanation in Luke 1 that Yeshua is a name derived from Yesha (salvation).

Another point that I will make about the OP is that I think that Jesus son of Ananias who says Woe to Jerusalem is a strange enough, semi-mythical-sounding figure (eg. when it says that no one saw him), and sounds similar enough to the story Jesus of Nazareth (eg. he was warning Jerusalem of destruction and got severely flogged), that I think that Josephus is not telling a "straight" story, and so he is probably alluding to Jesus (like the Paulina and Fulvia story in Josephus does).

Likewise, I share David Lau's skepticism that "Jesus Bar Damnaeus" is a literal name for a real priest. A Jewish priest would tend not to take a Greek name, but especially not one being Damnaeus. I would have to speculate again. Maybe it is a reference to Jesus son of Damnaeus, and Josephus was not a fan of Ananias, because Ananias had James killed. Ananias became "Damnaeus" in that the Romans ejected him from his priestly throne, and as one poster on this thread theorized, it was a "Damnatio" term, like Bar Koziba instead of Bar Kokhba.

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Re: The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

Post by rakovsky » Thu Jun 27, 2019 8:36 am

John2 wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 2:32 pm
War 6.5.4:
The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular, and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination. Now this oracle certainly denoted the government of Vespasian, who was appointed emperor in Judea.
My view is that, like the early Christians, Josephus did not see Daniel 9 as labeling Vespasian the Jewish Messianic Son of David. Rather, the oracle of Daniel 9 denoted the soldiers of Vespasian as the people of the prince (future emperor Vespasian) to come who would destroy the Temple. ie. While the "anointed Prince" in the middle of the prophecy might refer to the Messiah, the "prince" at the end of the prophecy was a prince/ruler like Vespasian. in Josephus' account, Vespasian's attack IIRC is also considered to cut off sacrifices for 3 1/2 years in keeping with the prince's stopping of sacrifices for 3 1/2 years in Daniel 9.

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Re: The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

Post by rakovsky » Thu Jun 27, 2019 8:41 am

davidlau17 wrote:
Mon Jun 24, 2019 5:44 pm
To begin with, as a Jewish Pharisee who wrote derisively about all other messiah claimants, Josephus would have been unlikely to believe Jesus to be the Christ. However, even if he did come to that belief, common sense would tell us that he would dedicate a heavy portion of Antiquities to his Messiah. Instead he casually and abruptly proclaims, "He was the Christ".
I think that Josephus did dedicate more portions of the Antiquities than the TF and James' story to Jesus, but he did so cryptically, and this explains at least some of the Jesus references that you are asking about. He wrote cryptically about it because he was low-key in his Christianity due to Rome's policies on Christians. Plus, his main purpose was Jewish national history, rather than unveiling the prophecies. He actually doesn't unveil much explicitly about the Messianic prophecies, although he does allude to Daniel's prophecies' explanations To give a modern comparison, there are people with certain views who a government and a country's establishment would consider radical and look down on, and so in their well known writings they don't say much about it explicitly.

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Re: The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Jun 27, 2019 8:48 am

rakovsky wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 8:30 am
A Jewish priest would tend not to take a Greek name....
Why not?

Josephus, Antiquities 12.5.1 §237-241: 237 About this time, upon the death of Onias the high priest, they gave the high priesthood to Jesus his brother; for that son which Onias left was yet but an infant; and, in its proper place, we will inform the reader of all the circumstances that befell this child. 238 But this Jesus, who was the brother of Onias, was deprived of the high priesthood by the king, who was angry with him, and gave it to his younger brother, whose name also was Onias; for Simon had these three sons, to each of which the priesthood came, as we have already informed the reader. 239 This Jesus [a Jewish name] changed his name to Jason [a Greek name], but Onias was called Menelaus [another Greek name]. Now as the former high priest, Jesus, raised a sedition against Menelaus, who was ordained after him, the multitude were divided between them both. And the sons of Tobias took the part of Menelaus, 240 but the greater part of the people assisted Jason; and by that means Menelaus and the sons of Tobias were distressed, and retired to Antiochus, and informed him that they were desirous to leave the laws of their country, and the Jewish way of living according to them, and to follow the king's laws, and the Grecian way of living. 241 Wherefore they desired his permission to build them a Gymnasium at Jerusalem. And when he had given them leave, they also hid the circumcision of their genitals, that even when they were naked they might appear to be Greeks. Accordingly, they left off all the customs that belonged to their own country, and imitated the practices of the other nations.

After the Maccabean period we have Jewish high priests named Aristobulus, Alexander, Antigonus, and Theophilus: all Greek names.
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Re: The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

Post by rakovsky » Fri Jun 28, 2019 8:41 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 8:48 am
rakovsky wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 8:30 am
A Jewish priest would tend not to take a Greek name....
Why not?
After the Maccabean period we have Jewish high priests named Aristobulus, Alexander, Antigonus, and Theophilus: all Greek names.
Right. Onias and Menelaus came to my mind when I wrote that.
The position of high priest was a very important semi political one, and the contenders for it in the Maccabean period and as a consequence afterwards were divided into camps and cultural orientations (eg. pro-Egyptian, pro-Seleucid, etc.). The line of high priests in the first century I think tended to have Jewish names (Ananias, Caiaphas). Jesus Ben Damnaeus uses a Jewish first name too. But his father is using a Greek name. If that was all there was to it, I wouldn't find it significant. It's the fact that he uses Damnaeus that sounds weird to me because of its meaning. I doubt that even such a Greek name was common. If it had been some kind of known Hebrew name, then I could overlook the weird meaning.
The issue is a combination: It seems pretty weird for a name ("Damned"?), it must be a pretty rare name, and it's a Greek name. since it's a Jewish high priest in the first century, the high priest wouldn't tend to have a Greek name. So the name comes up as a red flag for me. It raises the idea to me of whether this was A) his actual name or if B) Josephus is using it as a literary device. I am not actually advocating either A or B.

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Re: The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Jun 28, 2019 9:00 am

rakovsky wrote:
Fri Jun 28, 2019 8:41 am
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 8:48 am
rakovsky wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 8:30 am
A Jewish priest would tend not to take a Greek name....
Why not?
After the Maccabean period we have Jewish high priests named Aristobulus, Alexander, Antigonus, and Theophilus: all Greek names.
Right. Onias and Menelaus came to my mind when I wrote that.
The position of high priest was a very important semi political one, and the contenders for it in the Maccabean period and as a consequence afterwards were divided into camps and cultural orientations (eg. pro-Egyptian, pro-Seleucid, etc.). The line of high priests in the first century I think tended to have Jewish names (Ananias, Caiaphas).
Theophilus was from century I.
Jesus Ben Damnaeus uses a Jewish first name too. But his father is using a Greek name. If that was all there was to it, I wouldn't find it significant. It's the fact that he uses Damnaeus that sounds weird to me because of its meaning.
What is its meaning, in your opinion? The comparison on this thread has been to a Latin term: damnatio, not to a Greek one. Is this a Hebrew name + a Greek surname derived from a Latin root? Greek terms using the stem δαμν- tend to bear meanings having to do with subduing people or animals.
I doubt that even such a Greek name was common.
It appears to have been exceedingly rare. This may be its only known occurrence.
It seems pretty weird for a name ("Damned"?), it must be a pretty rare name, and it's a Greek name.
It means "damned" only if it is a Latin name, not a Greek name.
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Re: The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

Post by rakovsky » Fri Jun 28, 2019 9:57 am

Ben,
I approach the issue of "Jesus Ben Damnaeus" as a mystery or a question.
You mentioned one occurrence of a Greek name for a High Priest in the 1st century (Theophilus). This agrees with the idea that Jewish high priests tended not to have such names in the first century.
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Jun 28, 2019 9:00 am
What is its meaning, in your opinion?
I would be forced to speculate. In case it's a literary device, then it reminds me of the names Fulvia and Decius Mundus in Josephus' two stories following the "Testimonium". I don't think that those were real names of real people, but rather that they each refer to the names of people in the other's story. I guess that "Fulvia" is a homophonic reference to the "Vulva", as the preceding story involves the female protagonist having sex. But I am convinced that Decius Mundus (Tenth World) is a reference to tithing the nations, as the following story involves tithing gentiles, and tithing refers to taking a tenth.

My speculation for Damnaeus is that since a "Damnatio" term was one commonly used for forbidden or despised names (eg. the names of rejected emperors or figures like Bar Kokhba), then Josephus was using Damnaeus as a pun or allegorical term for the high priest's patronymic. I understand your point that "Damnatio" is Latin. However, as in the case of Decius Mundus, Josephus had a practice of creatively using Latin terms for making up names.

One could object that Josephus was writing a history of real events, and that taking a person's name into "Damnaeus" as a reference to Damnatio extremely pretty harsh and judgmental, while being extremely creative at the same time. But have a look at his account of the capture of "Simon the Tyrant" the son of Gioras in Book VII, Chapter 2 of Wars of the Jews. (https://www.ccel.org/j/josephus/works/war-7.htm) There, if you look closely enough (I only caught it the second time around), Josephus is cryptically painting Simon's capture as an allusion to condemnation after the resurrection (such as the Last Judgment). For example, he refers to it as " This rise of his out of the ground" and comments:
Thus did God bring this man to be punished for what bitter and savage tyranny he had exercised against his countrymen by those who were his worst enemies; and this while he was not subdued by violence, but voluntarily delivered himself up to them to be punished, and that on the very same account that he had laid false accusations against many Jews, as if they were falling away to the Romans, and had barbarously slain them; for wicked actions do not escape the Divine anger, nor is justice too weak to punish offenders, but in time overtakes those that transgress its laws, and inflicts its punishments upon the wicked in a manner, so much more severe, as they expected to escape it on account of their not being punished immediately.
If you want, I could get explain the allegory about Simon more.

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